While Montreal scuffled through their last two games of the week, they were still able to come away with three of four victories to keep themselves in the battle for top spot in the North Division.
The Week That Was
Feb. 1: Canadiens 6, Canucks 2 – After getting blanked by Calgary, the Habs wasted little time getting back on the scoresheet with a goal one minute into the game. It set the tone early on and Vancouver wasn’t able to recover. Tyler Toffoli continued his hot run against his former team and it was a rout by the time the second period came to an end.
Feb. 2: Canadiens 5, Canucks 3 – It was Montreal’s newcomers who led the way in this one as Josh Anderson had the first two goals while Toffoli had the next two, giving the Habs a three-goal lead after 40 minutes. The Canucks made it interesting in the third with a pair of goals including one in the final minute but Jeff Petry picked up a late empty-netter to seal the victory in Shea Weber’s 1,000th career NHL game.
Feb. 4: Senators 3, Canadiens 2 – Things were looking good for the Habs early on but a pair of last-minute goals by Ottawa in the first period greatly shifted the direction of the game. All of a sudden, they played with confidence and to their credit, they made Montreal look flat-footed for most of the second. The Canadiens were much better in the third as the Sens sat back and even though they spent the last 3:45 shorthanded, they scored once (Anderson) and had a decent chance to tie up before a late Tomas Tatar penalty put them down 5-on-3, ending any hopes of capping the comeback.
Feb. 6: Canadiens 2, Senators 1 – This was not a pretty game at all. The Habs looked lethargic for significant portions and got into some penalty trouble as well. However, they got an early goal from Anderson in the third period and were able to narrowly hold on from there with Jake Allen putting in another solid effort to escape with a split.
Goals: Tyler Toffoli (9)
Assists: Drouin/Suzuki (9)
Points: Jeff Petry (14)
+/-: Edmundson/Petry (+14)
PIMS: Ben Chiarot (26)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (46)
News And Notes
– Corey Perry picked up his 800th career NHL point in Monday’s game against Vancouver. For some perspective, Shea Weber is the only Hab to have at least half that many career points (577).
– Jake Allen now has as many wins (4) as Montreal’s backups had all of last season combined.
– Joel Armia was activated off IR on Sunday with Perry and Jesperi Kotkaniemi both being sent to the taxi squad though the latter will surely be recalled. As Montreal now has 12 healthy forwards, any further recall of Perry will no longer have the emergency designation which means his regular waiver clock will begin. Accordingly, he may not be back on the official roster for a bit.
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Drouin – Suzuki – Anderson
Toffoli – Kotkaniemi – Perry
Byron – Evans – Lehkonen
Chiarot – Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Kulak – Romanov
The Week Ahead
Feb. 10/13: vs Toronto (one home, one away) – The Maple Leafs have also gotten off to a strong start with their victory on Saturday night giving them the most points of any team in the league. They’ve been banged up a bit as of late with Joe Thornton and Nick Robertson both hitting LTIR with Wayne Simmonds likely heading there as well. They’re also lethal with the power play, something the Habs have already learned the hard way once. The more time is spent at five-on-five, the better Montreal’s chances of winning will be.
Feb. 11: vs Edmonton – Not much has changed since Montreal played them last month. Mike Smith is still injured (though nearing a return) so Mikko Koskinen has played all but one game and has been erratic in quite a few of those starts. Their offence has started to pick it up as they sit third in the league in that category, thanks in large part to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl; only Montreal and Vancouver have more. And their defence is still struggling mightily. On the second half of the back-to-back, this has the potential to be a high-scoring affair.
Perhaps it’s me just nit-picking considering how the Habs are off to a strong start to their season but I’m a bit worried about the state of their penalty kill even though the numbers suggest they’re doing fine.
Following Saturday’s game, Montreal is at a 79.6% success rate, slightly above the league average heading into play on Sunday. And seven shorthanded goals is nothing in itself to be concerned about considering they already have more than all of last season and is way more than anyone else has in the league. Put the two together and things seem to be great, right?
I don’t see it that way. In two-thirds of the rink, I think the Canadiens are doing a fine job. They do well in the neutral zone breaking up zone entries, play fast enough to force some turnovers, and are good with the puck in the offensive zone. But when the opponent sets up in Montreal’s defensive end, look out. There’s a fine line between being aggressive trying to generate turnovers and putting yourself out of position. Good teams can take advantage of the latter and their upcoming opponents qualify as very good on the power play. If they keep doing what they’ve been doing, they’re probably going to get burned on it a few times. Shorthanded goals are nice but I’d like to see a steadier look on the penalty kill for a while. Be aggressive when the puck is out of the defensive end but when the other team has gotten set up, it’s not the time to gamble – not against these teams.